The Canadian Thrashers INFERNÄL MÄJESTY are one of those few Metal bands that I have always been admiring and digging simply because of their music. The guys’ debut album “None Shall Defy” has remained one of the most popular Thrash Metal albums in my books of an undying admiration and respect over the years – actually since the day it was unleashed by the band’s record company Roadrunner Records in 1987. It reeks of everything how Thrash Metal should sound like in the first place; it’s heavy, dark, very though-out and most of all, catchy as hell, catching an attention of its listener right away without leaving anyone in a state of confusion whether this shit could rule in his / her books as well or not. It’s been 17 long years when the classic “None Shall Defy” album hit the Metal markets and many things have undoubtedly been changing since then, but luckily so-called ‘classic albums’ are destined to remain forever as those ‘classic albums’ for time being, right folks? INFERNÄL MÄJESTY’s 2nd album “Unholier Than Thou” that was released 6 years ago in 1998, quite didn’t do that well amongst the Metal crowd as some may have originally expected, but you can hardly blame the band for that only. Their previous label Hypnotic Records obviously didn’t do enough to promote them as well as they would have deserved which eventually led the band to the withdrawal of the contract with Hypnotic Records. Sometime around in 2002 another Canadian label Galy Records showed their interest in INFERNÄL MÄJESTY and wanted to release the band’s 3rd full-length album titled “One Who Points To Death (which just recently was released by a Greek label Black Lotus Records here in Europe as well with a bit different cover!) – and this is where I started inquiring more things from one of the band’s two axe masters Kenny Hallman about the newest album – amongst other things as well, and he took the time and answered politely to my questions via email. Now just keep on reading…
Your latest album titled "One Who Points To Death" was just released not too long time ago through Canadian Galy Records. However, the release of "One Who Points To Death" was delayed quite a bit due to a few different things. Last time when you talked to me via an interview for Metal-Rules.com, you were hoping to get this album out by the end of 2002 already?! So could you, Kenny, enlighten us a bit with some details what kind of things actually delayed the release of this album?
"The main reason that we had a delay in the recording was that our drummer Kris had a problem with his back. He went in for a MRI to see what the problem was. It ended up be a cyatic nerve in his back that was causing him a lot of pain. So he ended up taking 3 months off so that it would heal properly which it did. At that time we still weren’t sure where we were going to record and with who. We decided to start looking in Vancouver as we wanted to keep the costs down as we were paying for the recording ourselves. We got lucky and found Profile studios. Once we had recorded the CD we were still without a record deal so we had to start sending out demo copies to get a deal and that took some time. This in turn led to our deal with Galy Records in Canada."
What eventually led to the deal with Galy Records? I suppose there was also a bunch of other labels that were interested in signing you, so what kinds of things made Galy Records’ offer a final winner for INFERNÄL MÄJESTY?
"Well, the main thing we wanted was 100% ownership and control of the CD as we paid for it. We’ve been in this position before and knew exactly what we wanted from a record company. Galy Records totally understood what we had gone through in the past with other labels so he agreed to our terms and we signed the deal, it was pretty quick and simple."
Your previous album "Unholier Than Thou" was released on Hypnotic Records as long time ago already as in 1998 and obviously you weren’t too happy with them as far as the label’s support for promotion and stuff were all concerned. Like you said, you were owed quite a bit of money in the way of royalties and never saw a penny coming out from this contract, so eventually you came to an agreement, instead of giving you any royalties, they gave you full ownership of "Unholier Than Thou". It was re-mixed and re-released by your own in 2003, including also a live version of the song ‘Night Of The Living Dead’. Two questions out of this: do you have any idea how many copies of the album were sold through Hypnotic Records and how many copies of this re-release thing you have managed to sell via your own website thus far?
"We really don’t know how many we’ve sold through Hypnotic Records as they never send us our statements or return our calls and believe me it will be straightened out. I don’t know exactly how many of the re-release we’ve sold but the sales have been steady."
Do you still somehow feel being ripped off by your previous label? How can you be 100% certain about the amount of copies of "Unholier Than Thou" that they sold all in all? Or do you feel like you don’t have any other choice, but trust their ‘word’ as far as the exact amount of sold copies are concerned?
"Of course we feel ripped off – this is why I really didn’t care to sign a full record deal with anyone that didn’t let us own the masters and have total control of the recording. So many bands get ripped off, you sign a deal with "Who ever Records" for 3 albums and 5 years and hope to god they tell you the truth on your sales and how much they owe you. We know we’ve sold lots of copies of "None Shall Defy" and believe me we haven’t even made any money from it yet. These are all things that we are now trying to find out."
Let’s talk about slightly lighter subjects next, however – shall we? As we already touched the topic a bit about your 3rd full-length album "One Who Points To Death", let’s have a closer look at this topic now. "One Who Points To Death" has been released in North America thus far and in Europe it was released by Black Lotus Records officially 20th of June this year. What kind of comments have you gotten from your fans thus far concerning this new album of yours? I bet some of these comments have been very overwhelmingly positive and flattering all in all, am I right?
"The response has been overwhelming!! Our management is getting tons of requests for tours and shows. It’s great to have had fans behind us for all these years and we really appreciate all the support that people have been giving INFERNÄL MÄJESTY."
Laurent Ramadier’s review being kind of flattering about INFERNÄL MÄJESTY in general and basically saying that with this particular album you have kept on incorporating even more vibes from Death Metal into your songs; especially that has happened in Chris’ vocal department as he uses more Death Metal type of growls on this album than let’s say, compared to all that what he did f.ex. on your previous album "Unholier Tthan Thou". Is there any reason behind vocal change from more Thrash – like vocal parts to a more growling kind of ‘venom spitting’?
"No, not really… We let Chris Bailey basically do what ever he wants vocally. He’s far from an idiot and knows what will sound right for any given song. Believe me, if we didn’t like what he was doing we would let him know about, we’ve all been together so long now that we just know what will sound right."
What could you tell us about the production on this new album? I noticed at least that on your previous album you used Pierre Rémillard (that OBLIVEON – fame!) to mix your album, but now Pierre has taken care of the mastering on this new album if I can believe all that what it says in the credits of this particular album? Also, you have recorded this new album of yours at a different studio (Profile Sounds Studio in Vancouver) this time. Why did this studio switch take place in the first place anyway? Did you just feel a bit uncomfortable to use some of those previous studios once again (Reaction Studios, Noise Studios, etc.) for the recordings of "One Who Points To Death" or didn’t they serve your needs as well as you had originally hoped for?
"It all boiled down to money. It was in our best interest to do it in our home town. Profile had everything we could have asked for. We never had one problem there. We were going to use J.F. from KATAKLYSM to do the album but our schedules just didn’t line up, Pierre Rémillard heard the CD before it was mixed and he wanted to do the mastering, so we turned it over to him to do his thing so over all it turned out pretty much how we expected."
After the recording of "Unholier Than Thou", both Chay McMullen and Kevin Harrison decided to quit the band. Did they leave INFERNÄL MÄJESTY in good terms with the remaining members or was there ‘bad blood boiling’ all that time between some of you when they still were a part of the line-up?
"They didn’t quit the band, we had to ask them to leave since they weren’t happy about relocating to Vancouver. As far as I know there are no hard feelings about it at all. We just had to move on and it has worked out just fine."
Are some of you possibly still in touch with either Chay or Kevin? What’s going on with their lifes, by the way?
"Sure… I’ve talked with Chay, he’s joined the ranks of the working so he’s happy. As far as Kevin goes, I haven’t a clue, we haven’t talked to him in 5 years."
Replacements for these ex-guys of ‘The Infernäl -team’ were found under names Eric Dubreuil (for bass) and Kris DeBoer (for drums); both very experienced musicians even before joining INFERNÄL MÄJESTY. How did your path cross the paths of those two fellows as a matter of speaking?
"It was really no fun in auditioning new guys to replace Chay and Kevin. We had placed ads and held auditions – we’d give them 2 songs to learn and if they couldn’t do that then don’t bother wasting our time. When we first met Kris we knew right away that he would be the new drummer for INFERNÄL MÄJESTY, of course it’s important to be a good musician but personality is just as important. I mean we could have the greatest drummer in the world but if he’s a complete asshole then what’s the point of having him in the band? We were really lucky with Eric as well. He lives with Kris so once Kris joined the band Eric would always come down to rehearsal, next thing you he was replacing Kiel Wilson (the bass player we had at that time), it worked out great for all of us. I can honestly say that this is the happiest this band has ever been."
What could you say are some of these guys’ special qualities as musicians from your point of view to fit in the line-up as well as they do nowadays?
"They believe in what we are doing and love playing these songs. Kris and Eric are just like brothers to us now. It’s amazing how well we all get along and no one has a big ego, we are all in this thing together for the long haul and everyone in this band knows that."
Do you feel like your current line-up in INFERNÄL MÄJESTY today is stronger and tighter than your previous line-up (-s), now when you have both Eric and Kris in the band?
What were some of the main, the most essential differences to get this album done compared to both a song writing and recording of your previous album, "Unholier Than Thou"? I bet the making of "One Who Points To Death" was quite a few ways a more complicated process from the very start to the final end all in all as one could believe in the first place. Is that correct?
"It wasn’t really any different than before, but it was Kris’ and Eric’s first time in a big studio, so that was overwhelming to them. Sure you always run into problems here and there but for the most part it went smoothly."
In which areas do you think you guys have clearly improved and developed on this new album as far as its songs are concerned?
"I think that over the years we’ve grown as musicians. I think now we really have “the INFERNÄL MÄJESTY sound” down to where we want it. I know that people will disagree with me, but I think the new songs are the strongest that we’ve written."
It’s been both, you and Steve, who have written all the songs for your previous albums. Did you actually use the very same formula when you guys wrote the songs for "One Who Points To Death" – or did the rest of the band contribute to the song writing of this album this time around a little bit, too?
"Steve and I do all the song writing. We both know what we are looking for, I feed off him and he feeds off me, we’ve been working this way since day one so why change it. Sure the other guys put in ideas as well, if they work, great we will use it’s always good to have fresh ideas from the other guys, that is why you’re hearing things like blast beats, I’m no drummer but Kris is, so if he thinks a certain part will sound great with a blast beat then will try it, if it works then we will keep it."
Do you find it harder and harder to make new songs for the band that could top everything you have done for the band’s earlier albums as I believe you kind of always raise a bar of perfection a bit higher from one song finished song to the next song that you have brought on the table in order to give it a final touch. I believe there’s living a little perfectionist in you as well, isn’t it?
"Steve and I really don’t have trouble writing songs – we both have a lot of stuff written that we haven’t used yet. I never really think about writing a song that’s better then the last one we’ve written. To us it’s if we like it then we will work hard on it to make it sound the best that we possibly can. That’s what makes our albums so unique as don’t think that any of our songs sound alike but yet you know that it’s an INFERNÄL MÄJESTY sound as soon as you hear it."
You were also supposed to have song titles as ‘The History ‘f Hell’ and ‘The Killing’ available as titles of your new songs in 2002 when you talked to me last time. Were those titles changed to some other titles that now have different names on "One Who Points To Death" or were those some of those songs you left unfinished or only managed to ‘half-cook’ them with some riffs and rhythms only?
"Yeah… the titles tend to changes. ‘The Killing’ is now ‘Death Of Heaven’ and ‘The History Of Hell’ is ‘One Who Points To Death’, so there…"
Did you have to make any compromises, whatsoever – when you f.ex. chose the final running order for the songs on the album because what I have heard from some other musicians in some certain bands, that part particularly seems always to be hard and difficult to make, I mean, choosing a certain type running for songs for an album in order to get the album ‘flow’ effortlessly right from the very start to the end.
"That’s the hardest part. We would mix up the order and let everyone take home different versions and give their opinion. The only song we knew in advance that we would be first on the album, was ‘Death Of Heaven’."
Did you have any ‘leftover’ stuff available from the sessions of "One Who Points To Death" that you might even consider using for some of your forth-coming releases in the future? Or did you use every song you had done ready, for this particular album?
"We had other stuff ready, but we didn’t bother recording them. We knew which ones we wanted on this album. We all believe that each song on the album is strong or we wouldn’t have bothered even recording them."
Is there any deeper symbolism involved on the cover of "One Who Points To Death"? A crystal ball and a winged red devil holding it between his hands may actually mean a number of things for an eye of beholder…
"Read whatever you want into the cover. Everyone will make a story for it anyhow."
Have you ever had periods when you have thought that it would be easier for you just to leave the band and move on with some other interest of your life due to some unfortunate setbacks you have been forced to face during the career with INFERNÄL MÄJESTY? By the way, when was the last potential one…?
"No… I really can’t imagine not being with INFERNÄL MÄJESTY. Setbacks will always happen in life no matter what you are doing. I think it makes you work that much harder. We are proud that we’ve stuck together this long. Most bands would have thrown in the towel a long time ago."
You also told me almost recently that you will leave on tour for 5 months, starting from the 20th of June. What kind of expectations do you overall have in advance from this forth-coming, very extensive tour of yours?
"I truly think this is going to be our year. I can feel it, we’ve been getting so many positive responses from everyone. Our management company is swamped with offers for tours so I really think that this could the beginning for INFERNÄL MÄJESTY in a big way."
How do you feel playing in some of these summer festivals where you have a good possibility to play for thousands of people at the same time? I guess you have done a few shows like that in the past, haven’t you?
"Yeah… we’ve done that before but we’ve also done shows where there are 20 people there. So we’ve seen both sides. All we can do is go out there and do our best, whether it’s playing for 5,000 people or 50 people."
So what’s your favorite Metal festival and why indeed? Have you attended to some of these festivals lately as a part of the audience only, just to see one of your favorite bands playing there?
"Ozzfest. It seems to get better each year. Having SLAYER headlining is going to be great – to bad I’ll miss it this year."
As I live far up here in north, Finland, I noticed from your website that you are on tour here in Europe from 1st of September to the end of that particular month. Is there any possibility that we could see you guys touring here in Scandinavia a little bit, too?
"It’s funny because our tour dates are constantly changing. People keep calling our management asking for us to play so eventually we will get there, I’ll will keep you posted." (HELL YESS… this info came just in to me being emailed by Kenny: “We will be in Helsinki on September 27th as part of our Euro tour. Our management will send me the full tour within a day or two, I’ll keep you posted…”.).
I bet you are going to play with a bunch of different types of bands on this forth-coming tour. Are you looking forward to play some of them especially?
"Of course!! We are playing with METAL CHURCH in Vancouver to begin our tour. We are also doing dates with PRONG in Canada. We were supposed to play with W.A.S.P. on their Canadian tour, but their management thought that INFERNÄL MÄJESTY was a bit too heavy, but that’s OK there’s so many bands out there that it will be fun to play with them as well."
How would your ‘dream-tour’ be like? Which bands would share the same bill with you if you had the power to choose them?
"SLAYER – JUDAS PRIEST – IRON MAIDEN – INFERNÄL MÄJESTY. I’d even pay to see that tour."
Are there some albums that have really impressed you during these past months for some reason or the other? Could EXODUS’ comeback album "Tempo Of The Damned" be possibly one of those albums that has actually reached your own bar of an impressive level and probably raised it even higher…?
"The Art Of Dying" by DEATH ANGEL is a really good album. We just met them here in Vancouver when they played. They were great!! EXODUS’ new album is great as well, but I’ve only heard it a couple of times, but I still prefer "Bonded By Blood"."
Are you going to have a brand-new merchandise launched for sale through your website any time soon, especially designed for the "One Who Points To Death" album with some new shirts, badges and stuff?
"Oh yeah, we got a whole sack of new stuff, but it will not be for sale on the web site until we are back from touring. It’s really hard to manage that end of it when we aren’t there to ship all the orders, we aren’t even selling the new CD on our site yet until we get back."
The Canadian Metal scene has been very strong since the beginning of times with bands like SACRIFICE, SLAUGHTER, VOI VOD, ANNIHILATOR, GORGUTS, RAZOR, EXCITER, etc. – just to name a few. However, as trends seem to come and go, I’d like to ask from you how you would see the Canadian Metal scene has been changing, let’s say, since you started INFERNÄL MÄJESTY up to this very day? Do you still find it as interesting and innovative as you probably did when you were out there and wanted to make some ‘noise’ through INFERNÄL MÄJESTY? Or does the Canadian Metal scene – or the Metal scene overall, lack something that you miss back from ‘the good’n’old days’? Like f.ex. this strong unity and bond thing that seemed to be more present between members of certain bands back in the day?
"Believe it or not but Vancouver has a real strong Metal scene, bands like STRAPPING YOUNG LADS, THREE INCHES OF BLOOD, ANNIHILATOR, SOULDSCAR, etc. all make their home here. We are friends with all these bands. I truly believe the scene here is even stronger than it was in Toronto years ago."
What do you overall think of the Canadian Metal fans then and their loyalty for bands they truly dig from the bottom of their (Metal-) hearts? How do they differ from Metalheads from the rest of the world in your opinion? Can you see any differences there between some Canucks into Metal and other Metal fans from the rest of the world?
"Metal fans, no matter where they are from are the best in the world. Most other forms of music have fans because they are the flavor of the week. Shit, Metal fans are the most loyal fans you can find! SLAYER has had the same fans for over 20 years most bands can’t say that."
So, what do you hope you could achieve with INFERNÄL MÄJESTY by the end of the year?
"To finally bring INFERNÄL MÄJESTY to where it belongs. We’ve been doing this for a long time and I feel that this year will be the year that INFERNÄL MÄJESTY really makes a name for itself."
I guess that’s all I can think of now. Now ask me one ‘Metal – related’ question and I’ll answer for that, so just go ahead Kenny…!
"This is tough one for you, I think. What singer from a well-known Canadian band once auditioned for INFERNÄL MÄJESTY after Chris Bailey left back in the 90’s?"
Since I have never heard of this one before, I can only give you my rough guess… actually two rough guesses: first one would be Snake (VOI VOD) and the second guess could be Stace “Sheepdog” McLaren (Razor)? Both wrong…? I see, that’s what I thought so… 😉 “Infernäl thänxxx” for taking your time Kenny with this rather extensive interview and I hope you found it worth answering. All the best with the band in the future and just NEVER wimp out in front of more commercial or fashionable sounds!! Any last words possibly…?!
"Luxi… thanks for your support over the years as I know that you truly love what you are doing and so do I. I know we will meet again in the near future. All the best from INFERNÄL MÄJESTY and we hope to see you all soon."